IAS-Research Talk by Carl Sachs (Marymont University), “Strongly Embodied Functionalism: Between Enaction and Functionalism”

On Nov 17th, 2022, at 16:00
To participate, please contact andrea.gambarotto@uclouvain.be
On this occasion, Carl Sachs will present a novel view of functionalism (“strongly embodied functionalism”) in a talk that intersects organizational and enactive approaches, and engages with work by IAS-Research members..

Bio: Carl Sachs (Marymont University)

IAS-Research Seminar by Laura Menatti (UPV/EHU), “The relationship between health and environment: from adaptation to adaptivity”

On Dec 21st, 2021, at 13:00.

To participate, please contact: perezverdugo.marta@gmail.com

In this talk I address the relationship between health and environment which is of particular relevance in the current pandemic scenario. To do so I discuss and question the definition of health as provided by WHO (1948) and I propose an account of health which considers the role of the environment, from micro to macro level. This account is based on the concepts of adaptation used in public health and adaptivity in philosophy of biology. According to this perspective, the environment is not understood as a threat to health, but it may be characterized as a source of opportunities that require the organism to modify its activities and adopt new courses of action. I discuss two examples of adaptive mechanisms in the environment: community-based medicine and microbiologically healthier buildings.

Bio: Laura Menatti (UPV/EHU)

IAS-Research Seminars by Manuel G. Bedía (Universidad de Zaragoza) “Investigando sobre la investigación: Política científica basada en la evidencia”

Tuesday, Dec 14, 2021 at 13:00

To participate please contact alejandra.mtz.quintero@gmail.com

Resumen: La “Ciencia de la Ciencia” (SciSci en su acrónimo inglés) es
un campo en expansión que pretende entender de manera sistémica, y
apoyándose en analítica de datos, la compleja estructura de
interacciones y dinámicas de las comunidades científicas. Las
posibilidades que abre este campo nos ayuda a plantear cuestiones
novedosas en la gestión  de  la  investigación: ¿Qué  políticas
estimulan  la  ciencia  de  mayor impacto?, ¿cuál es el  tamaño
óptimo  de los equipos  que desarrollan  las ideas  más originales?,
¿Qué impacto real tienen los enfoques interdisciplinares? Estas
evidencias permiten explorar nuevas iniciativas de l+D -en materia de
financiación, evaluación o promoción- y reflexionar acerca de si los
indicadores con los que medimos el talento son los más adecuados o si
las formas de participación de los investigadores en el proceso
científico pueden ser diferentes a las actuales. En esta charla
mostraremos algunos de los resultados más relevantes en esta materia y
los conectaremos con nuevas perspectivas en la política científica.

IAS-Research Seminar (Online) by Tiago Rama (UAB) and Xabier Barandiaran (UPV/EHU), “An organismic path for teleosemantics: from biological to cognitive autonomy”

To participate, please contact: alejandra.mtz.quintero@gmail.com

On June 15, 2021, at 11:30.

The most widespread attempt to explain cognitive norms in naturalistic terms is etiological teleosemantics (Millikan, 1989; Neander, 1991). However, the neo-Darwinian bases on which etiology is hosted have been severely challenged in the philosophy of biology,  confronting the teleological account that departs from orthodox natural selection adaptationism. Organismic Biology (Camazine, 2003; Etxeberria & Umerez, 2006; Gilbert & Sarkar, 2000; Goodwin, 2001; Kauffman, 1995, 1995; Müller & Newman, 2003; Walsh, 2015) is an increasingly widespread alternative to this evolutionary adaptationist framework. There is, however, still little development of how organicism can contribute to teleosemantics and to transit from biological to cognitive norms. A prominent area to approach natural normativity within organismal biology is Autonomous System Theory (Barandiaran, 2008; Bechtel, 2007; Bickhard, 2000; Moreno et al., 2008; Moreno & Mossio, 2015; Ruiz-Mirazo et al., 2004). Within this approach normative behaviour has been conceptualized as that which operates in accordance with the viability conditions of a recursively self-sustaining system (Barandiaran et al., 2009; Barandiaran & Egbert, 2013; W. D. Christensen & Bickhard, 2002). Departing from different works on sensorimotor theory and the autonomy of cognition (Barandiaran, 2008; Barandiaran & Di Paolo, 2014; Barandiaran & Egbert, 2013; W. Christensen, 2012; W. D. Christensen & Bickhard, 2002; Di Paolo et al., 2017; Egbert & Barandiaran, 2014) we extend and discuss the notion of cognitive normativity from an organismic perspective that understands cognitive norms as emerging from interdependencies between sensorimotor habits. We attempt to refine the different sensorimotor layers that build cognitive norms, from the intrinsic normativity of a single habit to that of networks of habits up to the emergence of social habits. We identify minimal requirements for a system to be teleosemantic: 1. That its behaviour is goal directed (minimally pre-intentional), 2.  That its behaviour must potentially be judged (naturalistically) as erroneous, and 3. That its behaviour be (at least potentially) corrected by the organism as a result of it being detected as erroneous. Next we apply the organismic approach to cognitive normativity to a simple example of sensorimotor behavior that satisfies the minimal teleosemantic requirements. Finally, we discuss the advantages of an organismic path to teleosemantics by addressing core challenges in the literature: a) the Swampman scenario (and the Swampfrog variant we will suggest); b) the relation between normal and natural normativity c) the plasticity of cognitive norms.

Bio: Tiago Rama (Autonomous University of Barcelona, UAB) trama.folco@gmail.com and Xabier E. Barandiaran (University of Basque Country, UPV/EHU)

IAS-Research Talk, Cristina Villegas (UCM, Madrid)

On Tuesday 30 March 2021 at 11:30. To participate, please contact: guglielmo.militello@ehu.eus

“Variational tendencies: development as an ultimate cause”


The separation between ultimate and proximate causes is one of the most classical topics in the philosophy of biology. The ongoing debate over the Extension of the Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) includes a wide variety of philosophical topics, among which is a revision of such separation in the light of new evolutionary research agendas. In particular, it has been argued that some proximate causes, such as the development of organisms or their ecological interactions, play an evolutionary role in the sense that they are a necessary step in evolutionary transformations. While this has partially blurred the distinction between proximate and ultimate causes for local evolutionary changes, it has left relatively untouched the philosophical ideas about general tendencies in evolution, natural selection and chance remaining to be considered the main general driving evolutionary forces. Contrary to this view, in this paper I argue that the variational tendencies studied in evolutionary-developmental biology, or evo-devo, (evolvability, variability, modularity, robustness and plasticity) are ultimate causes in a sense that overcomes the specificities of local evolutionary changes. These properties, studied through genotype-phenotype maps, refer to structural features of how variation is produced in reproduction, and are increasingly being introduced in predictive models of evolution. I defend that these properties are better understood as propensities, analogous to how fitness and drift are usually seen in the philosophy of biology. While they are realized in particular developing systems, they refer to general features shared across taxa and affecting the production of variation in systematic ways, falling into the traditional category of ‘ultimate’ causes. I conclude with some ideas about how this consideration of variational tendencies can affect the notions of chance and contingency in evolution.

IAS-Research Talk, Maël Montevil (Université Paris 1/IHPST)

On Tuesday 16 March 2021 at 11:30. To participate, please contact: guglielmo.militello@ehu.eus

“Integrating entropy, constraints closure, and historicity to understand anthropogenic disruptions”


The term “disruption” is commonly used in the literature to describe anthropogenic damages on ecosystems and life cycles. However, this notion has not been conceptualized and theorized as such. Here we will focus on the specific case of plant-pollinators networks and their disruption by climate change. We will show that the analysis of these situations requires integrating constraints closure and historical reasoning. Moreover, entropy enters the picture in a new way: its coarse-graining is defined by constraints closure. This framework leads to an initial account of disruption in biology: disruption as a loss of historical singularity impacting constraints closure.

IAS-Research Talk, Emilio Caceres (UNED)

On Tuesday 9 March 2021, at 11:30. To participate, please contact: guglielmo.militello@ehu.eus

“Autoorganización como propiedad de nivel. Una visión reduccionista no eliminativista de la perspectiva organizacional” [The presentation will be in Spanish]


El comportamiento de los sistemas complejos se ha abordado en muy diferentes disciplinas desde enfoques que apelan a la autoorganización como una propiedad clave de ciertas entidades. Una de las propuestas actuales más influyentes se basa en la idea de cierre organizacional, esto es, un tipo de organización característico de entidades como los seres vivos en el que puede identificarse un cierre de constricciones que da lugar a propiedades con poderes causales que determinan el automantenimiento. Estas propiedades son consideradas usualmente como emergentes. En este trabajo se defiende que,
aunque esta idea de cierre organizacional tiene una valiosa capacidad explicativa, no conlleva necesariamente la asunción de un emergentismo ontológico. Desde una perspectiva que parte de la noción de cuasi-descomponibilidad de Herbert Simon, en este trabajo se desarrolla una caracterización de la idea de cierre organizacional como principio explicativo compatible con una interpretación ontológica reduccionista, en tanto en cuanto no precisa de la postulación de propiedades emergentes, pero también epistemológicamente no eliminativista, pues entiende que la noción de cierre de constricciones tiene un irrenunciable valor heurístico para el discurso biológico.

IAS-Research Talk, Cristian Saborido’s (UNED) presentation of his book “Filosofía de la Medicina” (in Spanish)

On Tuesday 26 January 2021 at 11:30.

To participate, please contact guglielmo.militello@ehu.eus


¿Qué es la salud? ¿Qué criterios se utilizan para identificar y clasificar las enfermedades? ¿De qué forma se debe conjugar la perspectiva de los médicos con la de los pacientes? ¿Existen realmente las enfermedades mentales? A la consciencia de que tenemos una naturaleza frágil le acompaña la esperanza de que podemos tomar medidas para combatir el sufrimiento y postergar la amenaza de la muerte. A lo largo de los siglos y en todas las culturas nos hemos esforzado por identificar, prevenir y tratar de revertir aquellos estados corporales que consideramos molestos o peligrosos, lo que ha dado lugar a esa particular síntesis de ciencia y arte a la que llamamos medicina. Con un lenguaje accesible y cercano, esta obra demuestra que la medicina es un objeto de estudio ineludible para la filosofía. A través de la descripción de casos médicos concretos, del recurso a ejemplos históricos, e incluso de la alusión a diferentes productos de la cultura popular como el arte, el cine o la televisión, se analizan críticamente las cuestiones que conforman la emergente filosofía de la medicina, al tiempo que se ofrecen herramientas conceptuales para comprender qué asunciones presupone y qué consecuencias implica la práctica médica.

IAS-Research talk (online), Matteo Mossio (CNRS & Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), “On why biological autonomy cannot live without closure”

Tuesday, the 15th of December 2020, 11:30 (Central European Time)

To participate, please contact: guglielmo.militello@ehu.eus


In this talk, I examine the role of organizational closure within the theory of biological autonomy. Many authors, as Piaget, Maturana, Varela, Rosen and Kauffman in the 20th century, have elaborated on closure as a distinctive feature of biological systems, notably in connection with thermodynamic openness. In essence, my claim is that there is no biological autonomy without closure, for fundamental theoretical and philosophical reasons. Autonomy cannot live without closure. Yet, substantial work is still to be done to show how organizational closure can contribute to explain crucial  biological phenomena, many of which are addressed by the Outonomy project. I discuss in a preliminary way how closure can take up the challenge.

IAS-Research Talk (Online), Andrea Gambarotto (UC Louvain), “The Varieties of Kantian Teleology: A Contemporary Assessment”, 01/12/2020, 11:30

To participate, please contact: guglielmo.militello@ehu.eus


This paper addresses the ways in which Kant’s transcendental views concerning the intrinsic purposiveness of living organisms have been translated into naturalist territory by contemporary philosophy of biology. We critically evaluate the interpretive challenges posed by such endeavours and provide a tentative classification of the various approaches which have been proposed for applying Kant’s ideas today. We first delve into exegetical questions concerning the notions of mechanism and teleology, along with those of constitutive and regulative principles. We then distinguish three approaches to making Kant relevant today, each of which is characterized by a specific idea regarding what is useful about his perspective on teleology. We define those as heuristic, synthetic, and revisionist approaches respectively.